Tennessee’s star senior forward will miss a sixth game due to a lower leg injury. Jackson, who has been wearing a boot on her right foot, has missed all of Tennessee’s ranked matchups except the first one against No. 15 Florida State on Nov. 9, when she had 31 points and 17 rebounds.
Tennessee (4-3) plays No. 13 Ohio State (5-1) on Sunday (5 p.m. ET, ESPN) at Thompson-Boling Arena at Food City Center. The Lady Vols did get sophomore guard Avery Strickland back Sunday, who missed the previous four games due to concussion protocol.
Jackson’s injury has stretched into an over three-week absence, and Lady Vols coach Kellie Harper has declined to provide any updates to her original day-to-day status.
When Harper was asked Friday if she expected Jackson to be available Sunday, she said they were still evaluating Jackson every day and didn’t have an update.
Harper said she thinks Jackson is “really disappointed” to not be on the court for the marquee games her senior year.
“She’s such a competitive player and she loves playing basketball,” Harper said. “I think you can see that passion from her when she steps out on the court. And so for someone to have that taken away, even for a brief amount of time, it’s hard. It really is.”
But Harper “really proud” of how Jackson has handled the situation. She has been engaged on the sidelines and her leadership has still made an impact.
“I think she’s done an admirable job, I really do,” Harper said. “I think it’s a tough position, and we’ve asked her to stay engaged with her teammates. We’ve asked her to be there for them, and obviously she couldn’t be at the game on Wednesday, but her voice in the huddles has been so positive and very helpful for them.”
After Tennessee’s loss to Indiana on Nov. 23, Harper said they couldn’t put a timetable on Jackson’s return.
“It’s just how she responds, how her body responds,” Harper said. “So we’ll let the athletic trainers and doctors guide us as we go. Obviously we miss her, but in the meantime, the team on the court has got to get better.”
Besides being the centerpiece of Tennessee’s offense, Jackson provides a strong presence in the post and on the boards, where the team does not have depth to spare. She’s averaging 22 points, 12 rebounds and three assists in 31 minutes per game this season.
Jackson chose to return for a fifth season instead of entering the 2022 WNBA Draft, where she was a projected lottery pick. She spent the first three seasons of her college career at Mississippi State, where she played under three head coaches before entering the transfer portal halfway through her junior year.
Jackson was a first-team All-SEC selection last season and made multiple preseason watch lists this year, including the Cheryl Miller Award, the Naismith Trophy and the Wade Trophy. Jackson was a top-five finalist for the Cheryl Miller Award last season.
Cora Hall covers University of Tennessee women’s athletics. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @corahalll. If you enjoy Cora’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that allows you to access all of it.